The Death of William Pepperney

My 2nd great grand uncle William Pepperney spent a career as a Pittsburgh fireman before retiring around 1940. He no doubt spent countless hours at the Troy Hill fire station from which he retired, located just two blocks from his home at 1954 Ley Street. As a firefighter myself, I know that most retirees enjoy catching up on the latest fire department gossip, chatting with the men you once served with, and drinking the free coffee. It is only fitting that it is just outside the firehouse doors that William died, albeit so tragically. While just feet from both the firehouse and his home, William was struck by a car making a right turn at Lowrie and Ley Streets. The report in the Coroner’s Case Files indicate that William died of a skull fracture. He was 71 years old.
This case file was provided by the University of Pittsburgh Archives, which maintains the Allegheny County Coroner’s Case Files through 1971. It includes multiple documents that tell how William died, including:
  • Proof of Identity – This form provides a statement by William’s wife Mary. It provides a positive identification of William’s body and includes such details as her home address, his birthday (just the day prior), and information on the incident.
  • Statement of Doctor Robert R. Clark, M.D. – Doctor Clark operated a medical practice just 50 feet from the accident scene and was summoned by the firefighters. This report documents what he found and actually replaces the autopsy record.
  • Coroner’s Jury Verdict – This legal record would indicate if the Coroner’s Jury was in agreement with the medical findings and if there was any criminal intent. In this case, the death was ruled accidental.
  • Press Report – The Press Report provides details on the coroner’s jury, the deceased, who handled the mortuary affairs, and related details.
  • Disposition of Case – Interestingly, this document provides the full name and address of the driver who struck William and the name of the investigating officer. It has a place on the paper for a sketch of the accident, but that area remains blank.
  • Memorandum to Col. Geo. E. A. Fairley from Captain Joseph David, Captain, Engine Company 51. Captain David was the first on the scene of the accident and provided information on what he saw and did. He also corroborates basic information about William’s job as a retired Hoseman for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
  • Source:
    “Autopsy of William Pepperney,” Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Office Records, collection AIS.1982.07, box 506, record #194701-246, University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh.

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